In general watching people cram for a test isn’t great television but when it comes to watching young sommeliers cram for the Master Sommelier taste, the rules are somehow different.
“Uncorked” a new series on Esquire TV based on the popular documentary, “Somm,” follows a new batch of six talented New York sommeliers as they study and train for a test that only approximately 230 people have passed in over 40 years. The show has some of the pleasure of “Top Chef” in that these are the best of the best, competing at a high level. What makes it even more interesting is that of these six, several have taken, and failed the test before. The test integrates service, wine theory, and the ability to blind taste with ease, not an easy task considering the depth and breadth of the world of wine. Knowledge at this level almost seems like wizardry when the somms are able to tell, at a glance and a sniff not just the varietal, but the region, year, and price point of what is in the glass.
The show also delivers information on wine pairings and wine theory along with the travails of study for one of the world’s toughest tests. But it’s really the talent, heart, and striving ambition of the somms that makes the show one to watch. Their rankings seems to change week by week as they compete against each other in a series of preliminary challenges leading up to the big exam.
The series cast includes accomplished sommeliers, all of whom have received some level of success in the field already. Each has a unique story to tell from earnest Jack Mason and charmingly rumpled Dana Gaiser both on their third try taking the test to stand-out rookie Jane Lopes whose appealing combination of nervousness and spot-on wine knowledge make her a rising star. Yannick Benjamin, a wheelchair-bound sommelier with his own non-profit organization, leads with his heart while Josh Nadel, on his fourth try taking the test, has a more cerebral approach and Morgan Harris seems to never be without a smile on his face.
The striving somms are what give the show its heart, that and the knowledge that it’s statistically unlikely that all will triumph (no spoilers but the Master Sommelier roster is posted online). You don’t have to be a wine nerd to enjoy the show but given the level of insider info and lore on display, it certainly helps.
For more info and clip from the show visit: http://tv.esquire.com/shows/uncorked
Deidre Woollard served as the lead editor on Luxist.com for six years writing about real estate, auctions, jewelry and luxury goods. Her love for luxury real estate led her to work at realtor.com and two of the top real estate brokerages in Los Angeles as well as doing publicity for properties around the world.